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Lean Manufacturing Tools

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What are Lean Manufacturing Tools?

Lean manufacturing can be looked at as an overall philosophy for business improvement as well as a collection of lean manufacturing tools. These tools applied on their own without the overall framework for improvement will not be as effective as a planned implementation of lean.

If you wish to gain the benefits of lean manufacturing then you need to consider the principles of lean not just the tools of lean.

There are many tools of lean manufacturing, many of them are not new and many have been developed and improved as part of the Toyota production system (TPS).

Below I will summarize a selection of the main lean manufacturing tools and provide links for additional information.

Lean Tools

Lean Manufacturing Tools

Lean Manufacturing Tools

Learn More About Lean Wastes

The following links will provide you with in depth information regarding the wastes of lean;

The Seven Wastes

Seven Wastes

Seven Wastes

Seven Wastes

Lean manufacturing aims to prevent the formation of waste, these wastes, muda, muri and mura, requiring to be eliminated or reduced from our processes in all areas of our business; be it our production, back office or service.

Muda are the traditional seven wastes that most practitioners refer to, these can be remembered through the mnemonic TIMWOOD; Transport, Inventory, Motion, Over-production, Over-processing, and Defects.

Muri is the waste of overburden; putting excessive strain on our machines and operators through poor workplace organization, poor management and Mura.

Mura is the waste of unevenness, we need to level our production demand through tools such as heijunker to reduce the stress that this unevenness causes within our processes.

Learn more about JIT

If you want more in depth information on Just in Time principles just follow this link;

Just In Time

Just in Time

JIT or Just in Time is one of the main principles of Lean Manufacturing, that of producing only what the customer wants, where the customer wants, when the customer wants it. Not producing large batches of stock that the customer may or may not require.

To implement JIT you need to implement flow through your value stream and reduce batch sizes as much as possible, the ideal batch size being that of 1.

Many people will say that JIT is not possible in their industry, but everyday we make technical advances that allow this possible in almost any industry. Consider printing, if you want to read a book, it is no longer necessary to have a print run of thousands of copies, we can either download electronically or have an individual book printed and bound.

Learn more about Value Stream Mapping

If you want to fully understand all about Value Stream Mapping just follow the link below for a step by step guide to this important lean tool;

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Value Stream Mapping

Tools for Lean Management

Lean Management Tool VSM

Lean Management Tool VSM

Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is one of the most important tools of lean manufacturing, it allows you to map out your whole value stream from materials through to your customer and identify the areas of waste and delays.

Through the creation of current value stream maps you can highlight the problems and create your future state maps and action plans to improve your value streams.

This is one of your most valuable tools within Lean and can help direct your teams to the areas within your organization that require improvement and change. Maps should be created by those within the company not by outside "experts" bought in to effect change on you!

By using VSM correctly you can define a whole series of improvement stages for your organization to implement Lean effectively.

Learn More About Kanban

To Learn more about how to use Kanbans within JIT systems follow this link;


Lean Tools Kanban


Kanban is one of the tools you will need to implement if you want to achieve an effective JIT system; Kanban is a flag or signal back to a previous operation which tells that operation to produce more product thus pulling production through the process.

There are many different types of Kanban systems that you could use, from CONWIP (Constant work in progress) to bin systems, basically the imagination is your only limiting factor in designing your Kanban system for your lean implementation.

Without some form of kanban system you would not be able to implement any form of flow system for Just In Time. This lean tool is vital if you want to be able to effectively control your production while maintaining low stocks and a quick turnaround.

Learn More About Single Minute Exchange of Die

The following link will provide you with all of the information that you need to implement Single Minute Exchange of Die for your lean program;



Single minute exchange of Die or SMED is the lean manufacturing technique that you would use to reduce your setup times. The aim is to reduce your changeover times down to single minutes rather the hours that many companies take.

This is a highly effective lean tool and I have seen setups that used to take a day reduced to just a few minutes.

The aim of SMED is not just reduce setups to enable longer runs of material but to enable smaller batches and thus improve the flow of material through your company reducing many wastes, improving lead times and enabling pull.

More Info on Lean 5S

Follow the link below for more information on this foundation tool for Lean;


Lean Tool 5S

5S Lean Tool

5S Lean Tool


5S is probably one of the best known lean manufacturing tools, it is a methodical way to make your workplace more organized and ergonomic, the benefits of 5S can be significant; often 10% to 30% improvements in efficiencies are realized.

The main aim of 5S however is that of standardized work, without standard operations it is impossible to drive improvement, after all what are you trying to improve if you don’t have a standard to improve from?

The 5 steps of 5S are often have safety added to create 6S although safety should be a consideration at every step of the 5S process.

Learn More About Jidoka and Autonomation

The following link will provide you with in depth information on these lean tools;


Lean ManufacturingTools Video

Jidoka and Autonomation

Autnonomation or Jidoka is the principle of having automation with a “human touch”, machines and processes that detect when something is wrong and stop to allow human intervention. Through this method one operator can watch several machines rather than being stood over the one machine waiting for something to go wrong.

This principle can be traced back to looms used for the Toyoda families original textiles business where the looms were made to stop whenever a thread broke.

This is a major part of ensuring that quality is perfect from your processes and ensuring that defects cannot reach your customers ever. This tool also encompasses the use of Poka Yoke devices or fool proofing.

All you need to know about Poka Yoke

Follow this link to understand more about this important lean tool;

Poka Yoke

Poka Yoke Lean Tool

Poka Yoke

Pokayoke or error proofing is creating processes and products that cannot be completed incorrectly, by this I mean products and fixtures that can only be assembled in the correct orientation preventing defects.

Typical poka yoke devices are fixtures that are shaped to only take the correct shapped components, pins that fit into holes preventing missed holes and ensuring correct orientation. Sensors that detect the presence and location of components and so on.

Everyday examples of poka yoke devices are the three pin plug, it can only be fitted in the one orientation, the inability to start an automatic car whilst it is in drive, the inability to remove the key from the car whilst it is in drive.

Learn about the Quality Tools

The traditional seven tools of quality are a vital part of problem solving and improvement; follow this link for in depth information;

Quality Tools

Quality Tools for Lean Manufacturing

Lean Quality Tools

Lean Quality Tools

Problem Solving; Quality Tools

Problem solving tools are as much part of lean tools as they are part of quality management, the seven quality tools are well used and developed within lean and the Toyota Production System.

These quality tools are used for continual improvement of processes and problem solving within any lean manufacturing or total quality environment.

The quality tools are;

  • Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram
  • Tally Chart
  • Process Mapping Flowcharts
  • Pareto Chart
  • Brainstorming and Mindmapping
  • Histograms
  • 5 Whys
  • Statistical Process Control Charts

Learn About TPM

For more information on the best ways to maintain the effectiveness of your equipment;

Total Productive Maintenance

Total Productive Maintenance

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) like 5S is one of the foundation blocks of lean manufacturing and seeks to ensure that are machines and processes are reliable and efficient through improved maintenance activities and autonomous maintenance.

TPM focuses on the six big losses and tries to minimize them all through a performance measure known as OEE or overall equipment effectiveness. TPM incorporates aspects of predictive maintenance and preventive maintenance but involves everyone in the organization rather than just the maintenance crew who in traditional organizations are the ones who fix machines while the operators only run them.

Learn More About Kaizen

Learn all you need to know about this lean tool by following this link;



Kaizen is continuous improvement of every aspect of your business using everyone within it. The Japanese typically use kaizen as an ongoing process of many small improvements which together add up to a major improvement across the whole company. In the west we tend to like running kaizen events or a kaizen blitz as some call them to make major step change improvements over just a few days to a week.

Kaizen is very much about empowering the employees to make decisions and choose their own improvements without having to go through a complicated and lengthy approvals process or have the changes forced on them by experts. The kaizen blitz approach is very much about "just do it", getting out there and making things happen, a typical kaizen event will result in the re-layout of cells and other significant changes.

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